Some kids derive an extra thrill in the game of ‘find me’ or ‘seeking’ hidden treasures. Mysteries always fascinate a human mind. We all seem to enjoy mystery thrillers and remain glued to the edge of the seat till the end of the movie. Dogs are no exception in the matter of searching and seeking objects, playmates etc.
If you ask m e dogs have the habit (instinct) to sniff and search custom built in their system. It is like their second nature. They need to seek and search the teat right from the moment they arrive in this world. Despite being born with eyes yet to be formed they expertly search and locate the teat and begin to suckle immediately after birth.
Problems for the owners increase as the dog matures. With age his desire to sniff and search goes on increasing like a six year old kid playing the game of hide and seek. Only problem is that if the dog is of a powerful large breed like an Alsatian or a Labrador retriever then a novice owner must be prepared for a broken wrist or ribs or a twisted ankle.
Majority of the dog lovers remain blissfully ignorance of this power and prowess of their dogs throughout and are led to believe that since they have a dog they must be prepared to be pulled by him! It is a common sight in the morning when an owner is boisterously pulled ahead by a snorting dog, while the meek owner tries to hold the leash in both the hands and maintain a balance.
Each walk becomes an ordeal for the owner. While the dog enjoys his moments of sniffing the clues while looking for the mystery, the owner has a harrowing time and each time he swears that next time ‘I won’t walk this dog on a leash’. Alas he cannot do a thing, because the dog if left alone without leash may go on a mystery trail and get lost in the milieu of traffic. May be next day he is found as a mangled heap of flesh and bones with most of his remains converted to pulp by the speeding trucks at night.
The very thought of the adorable pooch getting crushed under the wheels of a truck, scares the owner and he/she decide to take the risk of getting harshly pulled down on the road. It is a battle of wits. A dog on coming out of the house, stands majestically for a brief moment, sniffing the air. He locates the query somewhere nearby and then pulls with a jerk and begins to hunt the trail. The routine is unending. Each day or rather during each walk he repeats the performance and owner gets another bout of aches and pain due to pulled muscles.
No doubt following a mystery trail or the need to sniff, pee and walk is in built and a bad habit very difficult to cure though. Yet there are ways to control the dog which an owner must know. Most owners are led to believe that dogs are almost human and they understand each and every word we utter. Well this is only partially correct. Dogs are no graduates of language. They don’t have a spoken language like ours, thus the question of a dog understanding whatever is uttered by the owner does not arise. But yes they do associate sounds, tones and ideas with every action. Thus if the owner is happy after they have done something they associate it with pleasure and likewise.
Teaching a dog not to sniff is one of the most difficult tasks. Sniffing comes to them naturally. It is like trying to make a river flow in opposite direction. However, it is not as difficult as has been made to appear here. If you have been following these blogs since the beginning or you have read some basics of dog training, things will be easier for you. Moreover, if you start teaching the pup (I call it developing a communication with the pup) from the day one, things become much easier for you.
There are two words which must be explained to the dog with the usual trick of associating their compliance with a reward. They are NO and STAY. If you have said No for something you should mean it. Mind you a dog is not a literate person and he does not really know the meaning of the word. But he knows that when you say that in a harsh tone, you really mean it. And he also knows that if he obeys the word as per your command he gets rewarded too. Thus he more understands the reward than the dictionary meaning of the word No.
If your dog responds positively to your No and Stay, believe me half the battle is won. Most owners really do not know if the dog has really understood the meaning or not! A dog may respond to a No or Stay once in a while because of the harshness of the tone or suddenness of the command. It is not necessary that next time too he will repeat it. If a dog stops eating his food on your command of No, your dog has really learnt it. If your dog stops on his track trying to catch a cat or a butterfly, when you say Stay, means he is a darling and understood the command very well.
Training for these commands has been discussed in earlier blogs too. Here I will only repeat that be sure of issuing these commands. Once issued you should mean it. If you say No for something and the next moment get busy with your cellphone, then take it for granted that next time your dog may not use a cell phone, but he has enough ways of ignoring you.
Teaching your pup to Heel is the best way to make him not to drag you in his treasure hunts. In case you have a grown up dog and you find that the conventional method of teaching him to heel with the aid of a choke collar is tough, you may switch over to a muzzle collar. Personally I do not prefer it, as it involves a muzzle at the end of which the leash is attached. A jerk from you and the dog knows that if he goes on a sniffing trail he had it. I find it slightly cruel, but a bit of cruelty which does not really hurt your dog is much better than your broken wrist.